- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 21, 2016

JACKSON, Tenn. (AP) - Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

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Sept. 20

The Knoxville News Sentinel on Gov. Bill Haslam and education:

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam is correct in believing that neither of the major presidential candidates is putting enough emphasis on education.

Of course, there are official statements, party platforms with education planks and sound bites about the usual suspects: vouchers, charter schools, common core, and national versus state or local control.

But there has been very little public talk about education from either Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton or her Republican rival, Donald Trump.

That lack of discussion rightly has the governor concerned.

“We won’t fix poverty issues until we address education issues,” Haslam said at the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting. In the more than two dozen presidential debates thus far, Haslam said, there has been “a minute and a half of conversation about education.”

Moreover, Haslam said, when the candidates actually get around to talking about education, they are off base. Trump has blasted Common Core and federal intervention in state education, but Common Core is dead anyway. Meanwhile, Tennessee U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander has helped keep the federal role at arm’s length. As chairman of the Senate Education Committee, he recently engineered passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Haslam also was critical of Clinton, saying the Democrat has backed away from President Barack Obama’s move to link teacher evaluations to students’ end-of-the-term assessments.

“Both parties are not focusing on one of the key issues,” Haslam said.

The governor, on the other hand, is definitely focused. He recently kicked off a tour of schools, visiting members of his first Governor’s Teachers Cabinet. And last week, U.S. Secretary of Education John King praised Haslam’s Tennessee Promise program, the last-dollar scholarship that pays tuition at a state community college or technical college for the state’s high school graduates. The program costs an average of $938 per student in Tennessee.

King’s visit to Pellissippi State Community College occurred about 18 months after Obama’s visit. The president used the occasion to announce America’s College Promise, a program inspired by the Volunteer State’s effort, but it gained little traction nationally - at least initially - even though Clinton and Democratic contender Bernie Sanders have advocated a national program to make college tuition free for most citizens.

King is trying to build on the success of Tennessee Promise. He announced a 25-page playbook on which Congress should consider action.

“That said, we do want to encourage and support communities that are taking action on their own,” King said, adding that, since Obama’s visit to Pellissippi State in January 2015, about 30 communities around the country have launched programs similar to Tennessee Promise.

“Tennessee’s work to ensure free community college is really an inspiration around the country,” King said.

We hope it will be an inspiration as well for the presidential candidates to publicly discuss in detail and in all seriousness the educational issues facing Americans.

Online:

https://www.knoxnews.com

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Sept. 21

The Commercial Appeal on state Sen. Reginald Tate of Memphis:

For textbook examples of the sense of entitlement that can make some public officials forget whom they work for, one couldn’t do better than the responses some Tennessee legislators gave to questions about a European junket in 2011.

Consider the response of state Sen. Reginald Tate of Memphis, the only Democrat among six lawmakers on the trip: “I don’t have any problems with it,” Tate told The Commercial Appeal reporter Jody Callahan during a telephone interview this week. “Hurry up and finish, because you’re getting on my nerves now.”

Or how about former state Rep. Joe Carr, a Lascassas Republican, when he was asked if he had any concerns that the five-day trip was financed by a tea party poobah who has been encouraging anti-Muslim sentiment among state legislators: “I don’t give a rat’s ass,” he replied.

It’s not hard to hear a sense of disappointment in those remarks by a couple of politicians who probably assumed after five years that they would never have to answer questions about a questionable gift. Suddenly, along come pesky reporters asking for explanations, and now the thing is going public.

It’s not that anything illegal took place. The money for the jaunt, ostensibly to educate the lawmakers about the threat of terrorism perpetrated by Islamic radicals, came from someone who’s not a registered lobbyist and therefore didn’t have to be reported.

Tate said the trip produced no legislation. “I don’t think I brought back (anything) that I put into effect as legislation as far as it relates to Islam,” he said. All six lawmakers on the trip, however, have introduced or supported what some have labeled anti-Islamic legislation.

The trip, which included stops in London, Brussels, Antwerp and Amsterdam, only came to light because reporters encountered it during an investigation of the finances of state Rep. Jeremy Durham, who was expelled last week from the General Assembly for sexual misconduct.

Durham invested campaign funds in the company of Republican donor Andy Miller, whose Tennessee Freedom Coalition, labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, organizes events that are designed to whip up anti-Muslim sentiment. The group spearheaded opposition to the development of an Islamic center in Murfreesboro.

Lawmakers on the trip described it as a useful opportunity to find how European cities are coping with terrorism.

“I wish that we would’ve had more room and opportunity for more lawmakers to see what we saw,” said Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro.

What the public might wish for is a change in the financial reporting requirements for legislators that would prevent the public from being kept in the dark about such a trip for such a long time.

A truly transparent system would reveal who is traveling where at whose expense - for educational purposes or anything else

Online:

https://www.commercialappeal.com

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Sept. 16

The Johnson City Press on the loss of grant funding for homeless veterans:

It is troubling to hear that the Appalachian Regional Coalition on Homelessness has lost approximately $450,000 in annual grant funding to help veterans who are at risk of homelessness. Officials say the Veterans Health Administration has decided not to renew funding for the Support Services for Veteran Families program administered by ARCH in 16 Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia counties.

As Press staff writer Sue Guinn Legg reported earlier this week, those federal dollars have been diverted to Volunteers of America, a multi-state homeless assistance program based in Louisville, Kentucky. ARCH officials are asking federal administrators to reconsider the move, which will see the local SSVF funding shifted to the Volunteers of America organization on Oct. 1.

ARCH leaders say Volunteers of America currently has no apparatus in place locally to service the veterans of our region. If so, why have federal officials decided to move those funds from a proven provider of these services to an organization that is untested in our area?

ARCH and other related agencies have made great strides in recent years to meet the needs of homeless veterans. Several buildings in the Johnson City area have been renovated to provide affordable housing for veterans who are just one or two lost paychecks away from being homeless.

Homelessness is a problem that requires a systematic approach to solve, particularly in regard to the needs of veterans. Mental illness and substance abuse long have been seen as major causes of homelessness. While those are certainly factors, they are not the only reasons veterans are left homeless.

Online:

https://www.johnsoncitypress.com

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